USS Saratoga (CVA 60)

All of these pictures were taken by my late father, Cdr. Warren M. “Mike” McLaughlin, USNR (ret). They were all taken sometime in 1959 on the flight deck of the USS Saratoga (CVA 60). At the time of these pictures she was sailing in the Mediterranean Sea, I believe off the coast of Turkey. I will update this page as I learn more.

Much of the research I used came from the USS Saratoga (CVA 60) Mediterranean Cruise Book 1959-60. I was also given helpful advice from a couple of members of the USS Saratoga Association. One of the guys was on the “Sara” the year after Dad was! But – especially since Evelyn’s out of town – all the mistakes here are courtesy and responsibility of yours truly. Please put a comment or send me a note if you have questions or corrections! Enjoy:       

Douglas A-4 Skyhawk

Above is an A4D Skyhawk on the deck of the Saratoga. The Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron flew the A-4 Skyhawk II from 1974 to 1986. They were flown on this cruise by both the VA-34 Blue Blasters and the VA-36 Roadrunners. The Skyhawk was so petite it didn’t even need folding wings to fit on the carrier. But according to wikipedia “It was capable of carrying a bomb load equivalent to that of a World War II-era Boeing B-17 bomber.

McDonnell F3H-2 Demon – USS Saratoga, CV 60 – Mediterranean Sea – 1959 – picture taken by my father, Warren M. “Mike” McLaughlin, RIP

In this picture is a McDonnell F3H-2 Demon, flown on the Saratoga by Fighter Squadron VF-31, the Fighting 31. If you look closely you can see the squadron insignia of Felix the Cat on the fuselage just below the rear of the cockpit. The F3H-2 at that time was powered by a Westinghouse J40 engine which was plagued with problems before being phased out completely. But wikipedia says that “One high point of the J40 was the 1955 setting of an unofficial time-to-climb record, in a Demon, of 10,000 feet (3,000 m) in 71 seconds.

Foreground: F3H Demon – Middle: Line of Douglas A-1 Skyraiders – Rear: A4 sitting on catapult

In the rear of the picture above is an A4D Skyhawk (see top picture on this page) perched on the farthest outboard of the Saratoga’s four catapults. In the lower left of this picture is another F3H-2 Demon (see above). The Felix the Cat insignia of VF-31 is more visible in this image. In the center of the picture are a couple of AD-6 Skyraiders from VA-35, the Black Panthers. I can’t say for certain, but I believe the Skyraider was the last propeller driven combat aircraft in the US Armed Services. It saw extensive duty in the Vietnam War.

Douglas A3 Skywarrior on deck

This is an A3D Skywarrior, the only multi-engine plane on the Saratoga. According to the National Naval Aviation Museum, the A3D at that time was “the largest aircraft to ever operate from a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.” It was designed to launch nuclear weapons before the US went to all submarine launched weapons. After that, it was freed up to perform many other duties, including reconnaissance and aerial refueling, which extended the range of many smaller aircraft. The National Naval Aviation Museum closes with this cringe-inducing “interesting fact”: “Interesting Fact- The A3D was not equipped with ejection seats, the crew instead bailing out by sliding down a chute that led out the bottom of the airplane. This fact inspired crews to use the Skywarrior’s A3D acronym to create a morbid nickname—’All Three Dead.’”

Douglas A3D Skywarrior about to land

A3D about to put its wheels on the Saratoga’s 1,000+ foot deck. Presumably with ‘All Three Alive.” 

Douglas A-1 Skyraider (AD-1) catapult shot off the starboard bow of the Saratoga:

Skyraider being launched from the Saratoga’s right hand (“starboard”) catapult. See the wisps of steam still in the catapult rail on deck? It must not have been very windy. 

F8U-1 Crusader of VF-32 lands aboard the Saratoga. Note arresting hook and variable incidence wing.

A Chance Vought F8 Crusader landing on the Saratoga. The F8 was flown on the Saratoga by VF-32. Wikipedia says that this was the first jet fighter in US service to reach 1,000 mph; U.S. Navy pilot R.W. Windsor reached 1,015 mph on a flight in 1956. The F8  had what’s called a “variable incidence wing” to reduce landing and takeoff distances. The wing pivoted by 7° out of the fuselage on takeoff and landing. The wing is pivoted up in this image. Wikipedia adds that the Crusader, first flown in 1955, was “the last American fighter with guns as the primary weapon, earning it the title “The Last of the Gunfighters.”